Subjective Well-Being Similar for Those With, Without Children

After adjustment for background variables, having a child has little effect on life evaluation

FRIDAY, Jan. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Subjective well-being is similar for U.S. adults who live with and without children, according to a study published online Jan. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Angus Deaton, Ph.D., from Princeton University in New Jersey, and Arthur A. Stone, Ph.D., from Stony Brook University in New York, examined differences in life evaluation and hedonic experience in a sample of 1.8 million Americans of all ages who do and do not live with children. The authors note that most previous literature has concluded that those with children have worse lives.

The researchers found that there was little difference in subjective well-being for those with and without children. Life evaluation and all hedonic experiences except stress were better among those most likely to be parents who were living with a child. Within this group, those who lived with children were more likely to be married, richer, better educated, more religious, and healthier -- all factors that correlate with evaluative and hedonic well-being. After controlling for these background factors, the presence of a child had a small negative correlation with life evaluation and correlated with positive and negative hedonics. Similar patterns were seen in other English-speaking countries, but not other regions.

"We interpret our rich-country results within a theory of children and well-being in which adults sort into parenthood according to their preferences," the authors write.

Both authors disclosed financial ties to the Gallup Organization; one author is a consultant with a technology company in the health care industry.

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